A last few bromeliads

Because bromeliads are evergreen and look good all year round it seems slightly odd to post about still more when there is so much happening in the garden but since the billbergia posts have stimulated some interest, here are a few more. And besides, I have always liked bromeliads. In fact, in a previous life I briefly worked with them, in a way, at a nursery that specialised in tillandsias, specifically the ones that don’t need any soil and can be glued onto wood, shells, coral etc. Known as airplants, they were popular for a while and I see they are still for sale, at the time of writing even on TV shopping channels, though they are not very often seen in garden centres.

Tillandsia xerographica

Tillandsia xerographica

These particular tillandsias have roots that only hold them onto a support, to keep them in the light and air. If they were to fall from their perches into the dark they would die. In the wild they grow in the upper branches of trees, on rocks and even on cacti and most have silvery scales on their leaves to protect them form intense sun and they absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves. In the home they need a bright, airy spot and must be kept away from aerosols or they suffocate in hairspray or polish.

Tillandsia streptophylla

Tillandsia streptophylla

One advantage to them, as houseplants, is that they grow slowly and, if they die as they inevitably do, you can’t easily tell until they fall apart! It tends to make them less than exciting though.

Tillandsia ionantha

Tillandsia ionantha

The most common is T. ionantha (ionantha means violet) and it is possibly the easiest. It has almost sessile flowers that are quite large and showy and, rather unusually for these tillandsias, but common among other genera, the leaves change colour as the flowers open, to maximise the attractant effect to polinators.

Tillandsia oaxacantha

Tillandsia oaxacantha

Most other species have flower scapes that hold the flowers above the rosettes of foliage. And some have really spectacular flower stems as well as pretty flowers.

Tillandsia bulbosa

Tillandsia bulbosa

Tillandsia bulbosa and T. butzii are among my favourites because of the swollen (but hollow) leaf bases – that look as though they should be colonised by ants – and green, whirly leaves, that have a vaguely octopus look before they finally flower – and then, of course, die.

Tillandsia caput-medusae

Tillandsia caput-medusae

Favourite though must be Tillandsia caput-medusae (meaning mudusa’s head) which is a robust plant with silvery scales and a really other-worldly look. Tillandsias, like all bromeliads, are New World plants and they are from Central America. The other common species is T. cyanea which is a compact plant with a large, oval, flattened, pink inflorescence from which pop a succession of relatively large, three-petalled violet flowers. It grows in compost.

Tillandsia juncea

Tillandsia juncea





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7 Comments on “A last few bromeliads”

  1. joy
    September 1, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    I do remember these and they so much nicer growing on tree branches . would love to see them on cacti . not to much polish sprayed here lol so should survive at ours .

  2. Ron Sutton
    September 1, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    My tillandsias are alive and well
    They spend summer in a wire hanging basket frame hung on the washing line and take whatever the weather throws at them
    They are moved to the cool greenhouse in winter and kept dry although there is enough moisture in the air for them
    I find Tillandsia ionantha difficult to keep for long as the ones in the garden centres are very small seedlings and too much moisture rots them or lack of moisture dries them out
    I have recently seen them for sale in my local garden centre from a supplier who calls them “Tillies”

  3. thebikinggardener
    September 1, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    thank you for those tips. That is a really good way to deal with them and they do like a summer holiday more than most houseplant that just get scorched or eaten by snails! Good to know they are still for sale – i had not heard of them called ’tillies’ before 🙂

  4. Laurin Lindsey
    September 1, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    I do love Tillandsias, I have the hanging in glass balls, in jars on the wall and in arrangements. I have a couple of the ones above. I feel like they are my wee plant friends…tribbles if you will. I spray them with rain water I collect in a rain barrel once a week or so.

  5. dirtylittlefingersblog
    November 8, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    nice!! I probably have only 3 species of tillandsia.. can’t wait to collect more of them. I will blog about them soon!

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